There is a LOT to be learned from copying master works of art, and I make copies fairly regularly. Some times I copy because I can't think of what to paint or draw next but I need to keep working. Sometimes I copy because I want to understand a particular form of construction. Sometimes it's just to think in another way. But EVERYTIME I make a copy, I learn something. And the most common thing I learn from copying a master work of art is how perfectly the work is designed.
If you look at this drawing I did after Rubens' drawing of his son Nicholas, Rubens directs our eyes by creating concentric and spiralling arcs. Beginning from the outside of the brim of the left side of the hat, our eye moves down through the chin, up and around the jaw to the back of the hat where it wraps around and then comes down to the left side of the face. And then notice what happens.....the shadow of the chin begins the eye movement around the inside of the face to the upward looking eyes where they point you to the hat again, and the process repeats. If you expand the view, the eyes movement can begin on the cowl of the boy's shirt starting on the right and moving toward the left of the drawing and then sweeps up to the face at the chin moving you up and you beging the circular journey again. And while I did no justice to the way Rubens drew the hair, the same idea is found there as well.
But in addition to this repetition of movement, Rubens also gives a solid foundation and grounds our view by introducing one of the most stable forms in design, the triangle. If you abstract the shape of the head, there is a strong triangle shape. The same is true of the hat, and again the same is true in the cowl itself where there are two major triangles: One on the inside of the cowl fabric where the triangle faces the boy, and one on the outside, or where the fabric faces the viewer. Even the negative shapes are triangular anchoring the circular viewing of our eyes. This not only gives stability, but slows our eye movement and allows us to slow down and rest.
Each time you copying from a master work, try to notice what it's teaching you. It's a pretty sweet lesson.